Author Topic: Getting Started Cooking  (Read 1980 times)

aarsam

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Getting Started Cooking
« on: November 06, 2018, 12:22:04 PM »
Greetings:

I am terrible in the kitchen. We waste money eating out too often because we hate cooking and are terrible at it. How do I get started cooking healthy for my family of (4) with boys ages 8 and 5? I am committed to change and willing to try anything. Thank you in advance for your responses. Especially from those who were once like me. They are appreciated.

elgee

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2018, 01:12:41 PM »
Start small and simple!

I don't have children, but my husband and I live and breath by simple meals and left overs. Shop at Aldi (to save $$), eat the same thing for breakfast everyday, and whenever you make dinner, make extra so there's leftovers for quick meals on the go if you need them.

If you need recipe ideas:
https://www.budgetbytes.com/ - blog literally about cost effective recipes.
https://pinchofyum.com/ - personal favorite blog for simple easy recipes. 
https://damndelicious.net/ - also a good simple recipes site.

Also change your thinking - you are not terrible at cooking and you don't hate it.  Find a recipe on one of those websites that sounds good to you, buy the stuff, and follow the steps to make it.  When you make something that tastes good and that didn't take 3 hours, you'll feel good about it.  Keep doing it and you'll find you actually like cooking (if only for the money you save and the better quality/healthier food you're filling yourself and family with).

And if you want to get really advanced, you can start planning your meals for the week on Sunday, go grocery shopping, and get the most bang for your buck on what you buy (i.e. using the same ingredients in multiple meals). 

:)

letired

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2018, 01:41:45 PM »
+1 small and simple! I live alone and definitely do a lot of meals that are a little haphazard, but that's ok! It doesn't have to be a whole production.

As for the kids, they're plenty old enough to help, and helping makes them more interested/invested in the result. Have them help pick foods they want to try making, and help make it.

Don't be afraid of pre-made ingredients/elements. It can be a lot more manageable to do Pizza and Movie Friday with a frozen pizza that everyone gets to add their favorite topping to before you jump into making your own pizza dough. And lots of people never get to that step! You're looking to change a whole host of habits, so every move toward 'I'm a person who makes most of their food at home' counts, even if its by baking a frozen pizza with extra mushrooms and cheese, or heating up pre-made soup, or making open-face grilled cheese.

When you are interested in getting more fancy, check out SmittenKitchen.com. The recipes are known for taking a long time, but as a way to learn more advanced stuff, she's great. She also has a great selection of 'things on toast' sort of recipes. But yeah, be warned about the time commitment.

99% of the cooking at home battle is planning. It can be hard, and you will forget ingredients and mess up timing, but the only way to get better is to keep doing it.

PoutineLover

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2018, 01:45:13 PM »
I hardly ever use recipes and most of my meals are pretty simple and easy. If you start with a few basic recipes, you'll start to get used to it and then it becomes easy to whip up something to eat quickly. I always have a variety of veggies and meat on hand, and staples in my cupboard like oil, rice, pasta, spices, and frozen veggies for the times I didn't have time to shop fresh.

Some simple meals I eat a lot are these:
Stir fry, you can fry up basically any meat/tofu and veggies in oil, season, and serve with rice
Chicken and potatoes, put a whole chicken in the oven at 350F for 1.5hrs, add in chopped up potatoes/carrots/sweet potatoes halfway through, serve with salad. Season the chicken and potatoes with oil and spices before baking.
Salad, just chop up your favourite veggies like lettuce, spinach, cucumber, tomato, etc. Add some chicken, hardboiled eggs, sunflower seeds or cheese to make it more filling if it's the main dish. Balsamic vinegar and olive oil makes a simple but tasty dressing.
Casseroles, Example: mix cooked macaroni noodles, can of tuna, frozen peas/corn, shredded cheese and a can of mushroom soup in a casserole dish, bake for 30 minutes. Vary ingredients according to taste.

Easy breakfasts:
Cereal and milk.
Yogurt, berries and granola.
Fried eggs and grated potatoes.

There are so many variations on those, and other simple meals that don't take much prior knowledge or specialized ingredients. Start on a weekend day when you have time to get some groceries and try something new. Gradually increase your repertoire until you can have a solid rotation of meals. Make more than you need so you have leftovers for lunch. I started cooking when I was a kid and my mom worked late, so I'm used to it but I don't like to use complicated recipes or ingredients. Structure meals so there's a source of protein, half a plate of veggies and a starch (like potatoes, pasta, rice, quinoa). Once you get used to certain recipes, you can easily substitute things depending on what's in your fridge. At the beginning, some of it will probably be bland, especially if you are used to high sodium meals at restaurants, but you will start to get a feel for what flavours you like and you can experiement.

LifeHappens

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2018, 01:45:30 PM »
Meal kit delivery is pretty unMustachian in general, but a trial of Blue Apron may be helpful in your case. They are known for being beginner friendly and the process of putting the meals together will give you an idea of how to cook from scratch.

GizmoTX

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2018, 02:48:08 PM »
Consider getting an Instant Pot (multi-function electric cooker: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, saute, keep warm). DS used the 6 qt Lux model (basic) in his first apartment in college & is still using it regularly today. My niece started using a 6 qt. IP Duo+ to improve meals for her family of 5, & depended on it when their oven died. Being electric with its own timer, you won't have to watch it or fiddle with stovetop heat. The many buttons are a marketing ploy IMO -- all you need to use is the Pressure Cook button (Manual on older models). The Saute button lets you brown things in the pot before cooking; no extra pan to wash, although I sometimes use a large skillet so I can avoid sautéing in batches. The Rice button figures out the timing for white rice; DS & we each have an extra inner pot to cook rice or other side dishes before or after the main dish (which can be kept warm on the stove). The IP can do slow cooking (set on Normal or High) but we almost never do that -- pressure cooking is so much faster & produces better flavors. Steam is fast: set veggies like broccoli to zero pressure time -- it will cook in the time it takes to get the IP up to pressure -- then immediately release the pressure by moving the valve to Venting. Not all things should be immediately vented; if cooking a recipe with a lot of liquid or a tendency to foam (dried beans), then do a Natural release, which means just let the pressure drop by itself, usually 15 more minutes. Venting immediately in this case might cause a hot mess to be sprayed all over your kitchen.

Good sources for pressure cooker recipes: DadCooksDinner.com, HipPressureCooking.com, PressureCookingToday.com.

Lady SA

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2018, 02:57:14 PM »
pick simple, few-step meals and add them to a rotation. Then I suggest starting with premade doughs and sauces to skip additional steps/complexity.
Learn knife skills and learn to cut veggies for use in recipes.
Learn the different ways to apply heat to food: saute, bake, fry, boil, sear, etc. What do each of those mean in practical terms? What equipment do you need for each type of heat application? Then reading recipes will make much more sense.
Get a feel for the different "categories" of foods. Such as soups/stews, meat sauces over carbs (pasta, rice, etc), sandwiches, hashes/stirfries, etc

For example, pizzas and pastas are great. Buy premade pizza dough, sauce, and toppings, then all you have to do is roll out the dough, slop on the sauce, and add the toppings, then bake.
A good next recipe to try is pasta. Buy dry pasta and some canned sauce, plus any other toppings you want (cheese? sausage?). Boil the pasta, then pour the sauce over top and add toppings or sides. Easy peasy.
Sandwiches - again, buy bread, mayo, and toppings. Pick a veggie to include as well. Actually adding extra veggies to any dish is almost always welcomed. Those should be easy lunches, and everyone can build their own.
Get a slowcooker, and dump a bunch of ingredients into it with some water, and make some stew (stew is pretty foolproof in a slow cooker).

Next up, try upping the complexity for some of the dishes you've already mastered. Try buying raw sausage for your pizza and cooking it before adding it to your pizza or pasta. Try a "warm" sandwich like a BLT, and learn to fry the bacon yourself.

Basically, my advice is to find the least complex, simple version of different types of food and master preparing it with "ready to go" ingredients. Then start adding a tiny bit of complexity and try to get more ingredients closer to their raw/natural state and then learn to transform them to get the end result you are going for--just one ingredient at a time. Soon you'll master all sorts of skills and have an innate sense of how to take raw ingredients from their raw state, to the end edible state that you planned.
You'll also be able to take a look at various recipes and get a sense of how to "freestyle" it on your own and get the approximate same result. You are always welcome to substitute and experiment in the kitchen when you are cooking! It never has to be perfect, just edible!
« Last Edit: November 06, 2018, 03:01:30 PM by Lady SA »

firestarter2018

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2018, 03:02:33 PM »
If you're a true cooking novice I think it's worth buying a few cookbooks to learn techniques and get ideas for things you can make. Websites are great but a) there's a million of them and b) recipes aren't always vetted so can be hit or miss. With a good cookbook you can be pretty sure that they tested every recipe multiple times and did their best to get the instructions as clear as possible.

The one I'd start with is "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman.  As a more experienced cook I have to say that I now find its recipes kind of basic, but that's exactly what you want as you're learning! True to its title, it really does cover everything you need and aside from recipes, also has good illustrations of technique and background information on specific ingredients and how best to prepare them.  Flip through it and pick a handful of simple recipes you want to try - maybe a pasta dish, a meat-and-potatoes dish, a soup, etc.  Follow the instructions exactly.  There's room for improvisation and estimating once you get a little more practice and confidence.

If you have any kind of culinary arts place in your area that offers in-person knife technique classes, it would be worth looking into. At the very least check out some YouTube videos. Good knife skills make cooking so much faster and easier.

If you do want to browse the Internet for recipes, I've found that Pinterest is a good tool to keep everything in one place. You see a recipe that's interesting, "Pin It" to one of your boards (basically bookmarking it with different tags or categories), and then later you can go look at what you collected. Keep different boards for dinner/entrees, soups, casseroles, etc.

I also love my InstantPot and it makes it very easy to cook basic staples like rice and beans. Definitely get a decent cookbook to go with it because you really do need precise instructions on cooking times, etc.

Another idea is to google "sheet pan suppers" - this is where you take a large baking sheet pan and roast all the components of your dinner on it together - for example, chicken thighs, potatoes and brussel sprouts. There's lots of recipes out there for these meals and they can be a great time-saver, plus they reduce cleanup as you avoid millions of bowls and pans.

Maybe set a goal to cook a certain number of dinners per week (2? 3?) and as you practice it will all become easier.  Good luck!


eav

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2018, 03:16:30 PM »
One word: CHILI

You can make it basic with beef and beans or increase the bean component and add fresh chopped bell peppers to it to up the health factor. I serve over rice and top with cheese.

yourusernamehere

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2018, 03:31:29 PM »
You can do it!

Here's another vote for budgetbytes as a starting place. She has a bunch of "how-to's" that really break down the steps for some basics. For example, once you learn how to make perfect steamed rice you'll find that it becomes easy to make a bunch and then freeze portions for later.

For now, just take the first step. Make one recipe this week. Try it again in a few days. Get comfy with it, then add a second. Maybe you focus on just the main part of the dish and get a bag of frozen veggies to go with it (yeah, the microwave kind!) Go easy on yourself- maybe have a sandwich backup plan. You're looking for progress here, not perfection. When I really started cooking I also kept more snacks around because sometimes meals took me forever and I was hungry when I started. That's ok! Just do a non-zero amount of cooking, and try to avoid spending so much time picking recipes that you never do the thing.

Let us know how it goes! We can help!

Laura33

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2018, 07:01:57 AM »
I'm a cook, but I've just been through teaching my daughter how to cook, so FWIW I have some experience in this.

First:  start on a weekend afternoon when you are not pressed with other commitments.  You want to take the time to read and understand the recipe and not get frustrated that you need dinner by X and everything's taking too long and you don't know what you're doing.  Set aside some time every weekend at the same time to just practice and work on this stuff (I cook during NFL games, because it gives me an excuse to watch the game instead of doing something more useful).

Second:  find a website or cookbook that shows the basics.  You need to feel comfortable with the terminology and some basic skills, or it's always going to be intimidating.  But don't expect perfection:  there is so much froofy perfectionism on TV and in videos and online recipes, but the reality is that for the other 99.9% of us, it doesn't matter if the onion is in perfect 1/4" dice, you know? 

Third, lower your expectations.  It is 100% entirely fine if "dinner" means grilled cheese sandwiches and a can of soup, or a box of mac and cheese, or whatever.  I have been cooking for @40 years, and I still have hot dogs and pierogis as a fallback every week or two.  The important thing is to get a variety of healthy foods over the long-term, so don't stress if every meal isn't perfect.  And also don't stress about getting the lowest grocery bill as soon as possible.  It's ok to use a bag of prewashed lettuce or steamable frozen vegetables if it helps get some nutrition on the plate and avoids takeout, you know?

Fourth, take it slow.  Start with one or two simple things you think you can make.  Take full advantage of premade options at this point, e.g., a box of pasta and a jar of sauce.  When you have time, think about how you might be able to tweak those things to suit your family -- so maybe you want to brown up some hamburger to put in the sauce.  Once you have a couple of meals that you feel comfortable with, you will have a little more confidence, and can move on to trying new ones, and moving away from some of the prepackaged stuff.

Finally, consider paying for a service that will help you.  I had a subscription to Cooksmarts for a year or two -- not because I needed the help with the cooking, but because I was tired of menu-planning, and they made it SO easy.  They make things very, very simple for you:  they give you 5 recipes for the week, which are designed around re-using the various ingredients (e.g., if you have some kind of chicken breast Monday, you might have a salad topped with leftover chicken Thursday).  They break the recipes down into phases and lay out what you can do in advance, and include videos of various techniques if you're not sure what they are -- and the recipes are pretty simple and easy to make (designed for normal people with jobs and kids, not people who enjoy spending hours in the kitchen).  And my favorite part:  they give you a grocery list based on the meals you have selected and the quantities you will need, so you can go right to the grocery store and get the right amount of food, so you don't end up throwing out half your veg because they went bad before you used them. 

The big thing is just to get over the intimidation and build new habits focused around eating at home, so whatever you need to do to get over that hump is ok by me.  I personally liked cooksmarts because they took the thinking and planning and everything out of it, so I didn't have that sinking feeling of "gah, now I have to sit down and figure out what to make that everyone will eat and do the grocery list and all that."  But you need to find what works for you.

Oh:  and as an example of how simple "cooking" can be, here's a recipe that actually makes me feel guilty, because it tastes so damn good and involves so little actual effort:  White chili. 

Take some boneless, skinless chicken breasts or ground turkey or whatever you want and dump them in a slow cooker -- maybe 1-2 lbs, quantity doesn't really matter.  Take two cans of any kind of white beans, rinse them in a colander, and dump them in.  Take a jar of salsa, dump it in.  Add about 2 cups of shredded mild cheese.  Add a few teaspoons of some spices -- I like a few poultry-friendly spices (poultry spice or sage and thyme) and a few classic chili spices (chili powder, or cumin and some sort of smoked paprika or chipotle) -- but don't worry about getting quantities perfect, because you can always add more at the end if it is too bland.  Put the lid on and cook for @4 hours, or as long as you want -- add a little water or chicken stock if it seems to be getting too dry.  Shred chicken, stir everything up, taste and add more spices or salt/pepper if you want, serve with whatever chili toppings you like. 

Yes, that is "cooking."  And it is freaking delicious -- and makes enough for multiple dinners for the 4 of us and several more lunches for me.

Roadrunner53

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2018, 07:26:12 AM »
I purchased this cookbook from QVC: Comfort Food Shortcuts: An "In the Kitchen with David" Cookbook

David Venable is a regular host on QVC and has written several cookbooks. You can also find free recipes of his and others on QVC website. I made his lasagna soup and it was SOOO GOOD! Sounds weird but delicious!

The new cookbook is $19.99 plus shipping. Right now it is in print and will ship first week of December. Color photographs of each recipe and lots of easy to make recipes.

It might be something some of you might be interested in too. I ordered mine in August! They were very clear that it wouldn't be shipped till December. It will be my Christmas present.

singpolyma

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2018, 08:04:55 AM »
I am decidedly not the cook in our house, but still do it sometimes to help out, etc. Simple is key when you don't have a lot of practise and get stressed by too much going on. Here's two things I've made recently:

Classic pasta. Boil a pot of water, pour pasta into it, boil for as long as the package says or until you eat one and like how soft it is. If you want meat with this meal, also brown some ground beef (whatever amount you like, less is cheaper) in a frying pan. Drain the water from the pasta using a colander and put back in the pot, pour pasta sauce from can over and add the browsed meat if applicable. Stir well, eat.

If you don't know how to brown ground beef, you can probably find a youtube video, but it's pretty hard to mess up. Basically, put some oil in frying pan (like a *small* amount) and put in the ground beef, from frozen is fine. The keep scraping/chopping/flipping at it with your flipper until it's al brown in colour.

Other meal: chinese take-out-style fried rice. I do this with our instapot. Put equal parts rice and water in the instapot, dump in a bag of frozen vegetables as much or as little as you like. Set to manual high pressure for 3 minutes and allow to pressure release naturally. At this point you don't have fried rice, but if you add soysauce this is already a tasty meal. To go all the way to fried rice: put some oil in a frying pan, run it on medium heat for a bit (never run frying pans on more than medium heat!) and then add as much of the rice as will fit. Crack an egg or two into a bowl and whip it up with a fork until the colour is all the same. Pour the bowl over the rice. Flip/chop/stir with your flipper until the bits of egg all look cooked.

seemsright

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2018, 11:05:23 AM »
I cook, I am the type of cook that opens the fridge and makes dinner.

I would look into learning the basic info on cooking. There are a number of blogs, books, videos, shows etc for you to learn this. Take this on as you are learning a new skill. You would get a book to learn a new language or the like...this is the same thing.

You are going to have to set up your kitchen with the right tools. This will be a trial and error thing. A knife, a cutting board, a cast iron skillet, a large pot, a sauce pan, a wooden spoon and a spatula is a start. Know what you like to eat. Is it a ton of pasta? Or do you like asian or mexican food? You may need different tools for that than say Greek food.

I find a Instant pot and a crock pot vital. I can cook beans, I can cook pumpkin butter and a number of things. I can dump a whole chicken in the crock pot flavor with what ever seasoning I want and have dinner, If I want chicken tacos I will season it with chili powder and taco flavors, if I want garlic and onion I will add those flavors that kind of idea.

 For tonight's dinner I have a pork roast in the crock pot with some onions, two slice apples a few garlic cloves and a splash of white wine. I am going to roast some squash and potatoes and have with spinach salad. I was feeling like the most Fall meal I could come up with.

My advice is know what you want for dinner. What kind of setting you are trying to achieve and reverse engineer dinner.  And do not over think it. It will take time for you to learn and that is okay. I can pour flour on the counter and make bread with no measurements...it took me years to get it right. But for the life of me I cannot bake any cookie that has butter in it. Take the butter out of the cookie and I do okay but butter nope. So I buy those. No big deal.

And congrats in trying to learn new skills. I think knowing how to cook is a super power!

Jouer

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2018, 01:43:05 PM »
The key: don't worry about the meal not being great all the time. Sometimes meals kinda suck.

For me, I used trial and error. Mind you, I learned when I was 12 (single parent family FTW!) so there wasn't the pressure of making things fancy or perfect.

I still think you could just try stuff to see how if works even with a family. If it kinda sucks, make a joke about it and try to figure out what went wrong. Over time, you'll get better at figuring out what went wrong AND the frequency of it happening will decrease.

Boy, I've made some crappy meals over the years when I tried something new that didn't work. But that's a rarity these days.

rdaneel0

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #15 on: November 07, 2018, 01:58:43 PM »
Not to toot my own horn but I'm a pretty great cook. I agree with starting with Budgetbytes, she uses lots of shortcuts and makes kid-friendly food.

I would start by cooking once a week on Sundays, so you aren't in a massive rush. If you make two different recipes on Sunday, and double both recipes, you can then freeze 50% of each meal. If you do this for a few weeks you'll not only get some great cooking experience during a low pressure time of the week, you'll also have a freezer full of quick reheatable meals. Start super basic so you gain confidence, I recommend these two to start:


https://www.budgetbytes.com/pasta-5-ingredient-butter-tomato-sauce/

https://www.budgetbytes.com/beef-burrito-casserole/


I would also get rid of the notion that you are bad at cooking. Advanced cooking and making up recipes off the cuff requires talent, but following basic recipes is just a matter of reading and doing what the instructions say!

Pro Tip: Before you make ANY recipe read the entire recipe. Most novice cooks don't do this, and then they get halfway through and realize they're missing something or didn't do something.


Feel free to stop by my journal, I write a lot about food and often answer cooking/meal planning questions!

Roadrunner53

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #16 on: November 07, 2018, 02:03:40 PM »
I made 16 burrito's last week and I am not impressed with them. If I make them again I will add ground beef. This recipe called for beans, rice and cheese with added taco sauce. There were also spices added to the rice. I thought it was blah. Then I made an 8 can taco soup with canned chicken meat. I would also make that with ground beef if there is a next time. Did not like the chicken. Then I made a Carbonara recipe based on the character David Rossi on Criminal Minds and I didn't like that either! I am usually open minded to things but I didn't like the pancetta. I followed these recipes pretty exact so I am sure I didn't screw them up. I think I like things more jazzed up and none of these cut the mustard. I would make them again but with some changes. UGH, live and learn! I am still learning in my old age!

Normally, I am not a fuss pot but I am also not versed in Mexican food making either.

I have to figure out what to do with the burrito's. They are in the freezer. I am thinking of pouring enchilada sauce over them and adding some cheese then baking them. Anyone have any ideas? Maybe add some burger meat to the sauce?
« Last Edit: November 07, 2018, 02:54:21 PM by Roadrunner53 »

rdaneel0

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #17 on: November 07, 2018, 02:10:57 PM »
@Roadrunner53  I vote enchilada sauce and jarred jalapeno peppers!

https://www.budgetbytes.com/red-enchilada-sauce/

Megma

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #18 on: November 07, 2018, 02:49:05 PM »
Keep it simple. Protein plus vegetable plus grain/starch. You can buy frozen vegetables in steam packs, they are decent and will go sale fairly cheap. Take other shortcuts like sauce in a jar or marinade mixes. Down the line you can learn to make these things on your own.

Learn one new dish a month. Make it a few times until you get it down and then learn another new dish.

I would suggest to start with the oven fajita recipe on here, you almost can't mess it up. https://affluentfrugal.blogspot.com/2017/06/my-9-favorite-recipes-for-batch-cooking.html

Roadrunner53

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #19 on: November 07, 2018, 03:04:20 PM »
This is a trick I use for pasta. I cook a pound to the minimum cooking time (al dente) then drain and rinse with cool water. Then I transfer it to a ziplock bag and then pour maybe a half a shot glass full of olive oil over it and tumble the pasta around so it all gets coated. This could be done a day in advance and stored in the fridge. Then when I am ready to eat it I pour sauce over the pasta and rewarm it in the microwave. So you have pasta ready to go. I have also frozen the pasta flat in the bag, not in a ball and have broken off spaghetti for an individual portions. The spaghetti is still very springy and not mushy. If you have extra rice, you can put it in a ziplock and lay it out flat then freeze it. When you want rice you can break off a chunk or defrost the whole bag. It is very good too! I don't coat the rice with olive oil. But when I cook the rice I do add some butter to it.

FIFoFum

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #20 on: November 07, 2018, 03:20:57 PM »
I love the advice you're getting so far!

I would add: Separate the ideas of "healthy eating" and cooking your own meals. Cooking your own meals is path to healthier eating, but if you combine these goals, you will undermine your efforts to cook and save money.

Eating out can be tasty because the foods are loaded with fat, sugar, and salt. You don't want to wind up trying to prepare meals that no one wants to eat because they aren't as tasty as eating out. This can be more tricky for some kids too who are used to eating out. Some healthier foods have a steeper learning curve to get them right. Once you get more comfortable in the kitchen, you can increase cooking them.

For now, I'd focus on the recipes that most resemble what you already eat/like to eat and not worry too much about making it healthier. If your family never eats vegetables, then now is not the time to get them interested in lots of vegetables. Learn to cook basics - pasta, home-made pizza, tacos and chile, and so on. It wil automatically be healthier than eating out, because you still won't be using as much deep-frying or sugar as you're likely being served & your portion sizes are likely to be way more reasonable.

Over time, after you have gotten started cooking, then you will know enough about how to make each of these meals healthier & how to expand your menu to include more healthy options.

aarsam

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #21 on: November 07, 2018, 03:48:27 PM »
Thank you so much for all of the replies! I am excited to start this journey and appreciate everyone sending me off in a positive direction.

Tass

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #22 on: November 07, 2018, 03:54:01 PM »
Here is my favorite cookbook. Easy places to start include the jacket sweet potato, things on toast (actual entry title), and polenta. https://cookbooks.leannebrown.com/good-and-cheap.pdf

I learned to cook by vowing to try every vegetarian dinner recipe in this book. It gave me a goal to work towards, which gave me motivation to continue. Some of the food sucked. (I don't recommend the hot pot recipe.) The important thing is to get started putting stuff together in the kitchen. The confidence will come.

Telecaster

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #23 on: November 07, 2018, 04:47:41 PM »
Greetings:

I am terrible in the kitchen. We waste money eating out too often because we hate cooking and are terrible at it. How do I get started cooking healthy for my family of (4) with boys ages 8 and 5? I am committed to change and willing to try anything. Thank you in advance for your responses. Especially from those who were once like me. They are appreciated.

I agree with everyone else who said start simple.  Food does not have to be fancy or complicated to be good.  Basic techniques that you already know will get you most of where you want to be. 

Start with roast chicken (google for recipes).  Salt, pepper, put it in the oven.  It couldn't be easier, everyone loves it, and whole chickens are cheap.

Now you need something to go with it.  Try roast vegetables.   You can cook them at the same time as the chicken.  Now you have a great home cooked meal.  Totally easy.

I also love the Instapot.  You cut up stuff and put in the pressure cooker and press "start."  Totally easy, turns out great.   Now you have two meals under your belt. 

Now google "roast <some food you like>"  That'll be about the same as the chicken.  Salt, pepper, put it in the oven.  Now you have three meals. 

Most vegetables cook really well in the microwave.  Google "microwave carrots" or whatever vegetable you like, now you have plenty of options for sides.  Now you are off and running. 

Cooking at home is a great thing to do.  It saves money, it is a fun skill to development, it is good for your health, and good for the environment.  Definitely report back and keep us updated on your successes. 




Dr Kidstache

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #24 on: November 07, 2018, 07:18:20 PM »
Cooksmarts changed my life. I've been using it for years.  It's meal planning but it's also education on how to cook. I can't recommend it enough and the annual fee is a steal at $72. You'll save way more than that + have healthy nutritious meals + learn cooking skills. Started by a chef who committed herself to helping others learn to cook at home after she survived a severe illness.
www.cooksmarts.com

Bee21

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #25 on: November 07, 2018, 11:13:25 PM »
Try making meals which produce leftovers. That aill save plsnty of time and money and you xan build up your skills gradually.. Eg
Day 1 Roast pork shoulder with roasted vegetables (potato, sweat potato and carrots).  Divide the meat into 3.
Day 2 slice up some of the leftover meat, add some veggies, ginger, garlic and soy sauce and serve with noodles (stir fry)
Day 3. Chop up the leftover meat and serve it with rice, eggs and frozen veg to have fried rice.
Day 4 make a frittata with the roasted vegetables.

do a youtube search, there are plenty of great home cooks there.jamie Oliver's foodtube is fantastic.  Some of the famous tv chefs can be quite intimidating, just ignore those perfect people😊 (thinking of Martha. Or Donna Hay. Great recipes, but who uses a ruler to cut pastry in real life?).

Roadrunner53

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #26 on: November 08, 2018, 04:38:17 AM »
When whole chickens go on sale for $0.79 to $0.99 a lb. Pick up 3 or 4 of them and make sure they are big ones like 7 or 8 lbs. Take them to the butcher and ask them to 'butterfly' them. They will do this for free. Tell them you want the back bone and the organ meats. If you don't tell them, they will keep them. Now, once they have butterflied them you have nice flat chickens. You can wrap them better when you get home and freeze them. Wrap really good to avoid freezer burn. I have a vacuum sealer but lots of foil works well too over the original wrapping material. If you decide to cook one fresh, lay your butterflied chicken out on a cooling rack (cookie rack) and place on a baking sheet lined with foil to catch drippings. Drizzle olive oil and pat the chicken with it.  Add any kind of spices you like to it. The hub usually takes a plastic bag and shakes onion powder, chili powder, garlic powder and other stuff in the bag. Then he rubs the chicken skin with it. Under the rack, place some sliced onions and celery. This will cook and the aromas will go into the chicken. Bake in oven. https://www.seriouseats.com/2017/01/the-food-lab-how-to-roast-a-butterflied-spatchcocked-chicken.html It comes out perfect every time and is delicious.

Now, put that raw backbone in a LARGE ziplock with a big chopped up onion, some garlic cloves and two or 3 stalks of celery chopped roughly and a few carrots rough chopped. Refrigerate. Then when chicken is cooked, slice it up saving the bones and putting bones in the ziplock. Next day place all the bones and veggies into your crockpot with water to cover bones and veggies. Simmer for 12 hours or more. Strain out all the veggies and bones and you have a fabulous chicken broth. Refrigerate this broth overnight after it has cooled down. Next day scrape off fat that has accumulated to the top and throw out. Add to the broth, veggies, chicken meat, noodles. What ever you like in your chicken soup. Sometimes I add Better than Boullion (chicken flavor, a tablespoon or two to taste) to flavor it up and use it rather than salt.

If you don't like the organ meats, boil them in water, cool, chop and feed a little to your dogs or cats on top of their regular food.

Oh, and don't forget to buy Reynolds crock pot liners. They make clean up a breeze! Be careful of size, there is small and large. I just buy large and have a small and large crockpot. Large works for both.

randomusername

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #27 on: November 08, 2018, 05:57:36 AM »
Meal kit delivery is pretty unMustachian in general, but a trial of Blue Apron may be helpful in your case. They are known for being beginner friendly and the process of putting the meals together will give you an idea of how to cook from scratch.

+1 to this.  Agreed that it is unMustachian, but a 4 month stint doing meal delivery was instrumental in my husband and I gaining confidence in the kitchen.  We did a couple different kits and Blue Apron was our favorite.  We no longer do them, but with just olive oil, salt, pepper and some basics we are badass chefs (or so we tell ourselves).

Roadrunner53

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #28 on: November 08, 2018, 06:31:41 AM »
Meal kit delivery is pretty unMustachian in general, but a trial of Blue Apron may be helpful in your case. They are known for being beginner friendly and the process of putting the meals together will give you an idea of how to cook from scratch.

+1 to this.  Agreed that it is unMustachian, but a 4 month stint doing meal delivery was instrumental in my husband and I gaining confidence in the kitchen.  We did a couple different kits and Blue Apron was our favorite.  We no longer do them, but with just olive oil, salt, pepper and some basics we are badass chefs (or so we tell ourselves).

Plus, don't they provide you with the recipe cards so you could recreate the recipes yourself? My grocery store has these meal kits in the meat section. They are store brand. All the stuff you need to make a meal is included. I bought one once and it was okay but I have higher expectations than a lot of people. In fact, I am generally disappointed with restaurant meals.

pressure9pa

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #29 on: November 08, 2018, 08:18:52 AM »
Don't be afraid of pre-made ingredients/elements. It can be a lot more manageable to do Pizza and Movie Friday with a frozen pizza that everyone gets to add their favorite topping to before you jump into making your own pizza dough. And lots of people never get to that step! You're looking to change a whole host of habits, so every move toward 'I'm a person who makes most of their food at home' counts, even if its by baking a frozen pizza with extra mushrooms and cheese, or heating up pre-made soup, or making open-face grilled cheese.


This was going to be my point as well.  You don't need to jump straight from the restaurant to cooking your own meals from scratch.  Walk backward through the "supply chain" for lack of a better term. 


At first, just replace the restaurant with the supermarket.  Whatever your go-to meals are now, just buy those foods prepared from the grocery.  Already you've saved money, likely sales taxes, and you've created a good habit.  Kids can also handle this degree of preparation and eventually do it only semi-supervised.  Usually it's just unpack, heat, cut, serve.  After this, the next step is to customize some of those items.  After you get into these habits and schedule, you can then start buying more raw ingredients.  This will reduce costs, add flexibility, add health benefits, but increase time. 

Even if you all you ever accomplish is replacing restaurant food with prepared grocery food, you've taken a notable step forward.

randomusername

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #30 on: November 08, 2018, 08:20:55 AM »
Meal kit delivery is pretty unMustachian in general, but a trial of Blue Apron may be helpful in your case. They are known for being beginner friendly and the process of putting the meals together will give you an idea of how to cook from scratch.

+1 to this.  Agreed that it is unMustachian, but a 4 month stint doing meal delivery was instrumental in my husband and I gaining confidence in the kitchen.  We did a couple different kits and Blue Apron was our favorite.  We no longer do them, but with just olive oil, salt, pepper and some basics we are badass chefs (or so we tell ourselves).

Plus, don't they provide you with the recipe cards so you could recreate the recipes yourself? My grocery store has these meal kits in the meat section. They are store brand. All the stuff you need to make a meal is included. I bought one once and it was okay but I have higher expectations than a lot of people. In fact, I am generally disappointed with restaurant meals.

Yep, they provide the recipe cards and we kept a folder with all of ours and now make the same recipes a lot, just buying the ingredients ourselves.  Its nice to have a "recipe book" that contains meals we have ALL made successfully before.

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #31 on: November 08, 2018, 08:30:40 AM »
I use Budget Bytes a lot but her recipes might be a bit too exotic for young kids, especially if they are used to ordering off kids' menus at restaurants. Part of the transition may be training them to eat what the family is eating instead of picking out whatever they want, so in the early stages familiar food would probably help.

Family food can be really simple. My mom raised three healthy kids on very straightforward meals and rarely opened a recipe book (she was a good cook, just busy). Her go-tos included tacos (all you have to do is brown ground meat in taco seasoning, then open packages or cut up veggies for whatever toppings your family likes), baked potatoes with various easy toppings, baked chicken, pasta with jarred sauce and browned ground beef or sausage, chili, etc. For fruits and veggies, we had cut-up tomatoes and cucumbers, sliced fruit, tossed salad (cucumbers and tomatoes PLUS iceberg lettuce), frozen corn and peas, sauteed summer squash or baked winter squash with a little butter and maple syrup, etc. Homemade pizza was a big treat and the components are pretty easy to get at the grocery store these days.

My grandmother served hot dogs, baked beans, and potato salad every Saturday night of her life. Her version involved canned beans and deli salad...Mom's was homemade beans from the crockpot, which she made once in a great while and froze, and homemade potato salad.

You might also look at the Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks. I used those a lot as a new cook, and they are really clear and pretty simple. One of the issues I have found with many bloggers is that a lot of them aren't trained chefs or home economists, so their recipes tend to skip or skim over steps. It's fine for cooks with a little bit of experience who can fill in the blanks, but can get new cooks in trouble.

Roadrunner53

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #32 on: November 08, 2018, 09:21:43 AM »
Another thing I would do is start simple by looking up recipes with 4, 5 or 6 ingredients. Limiting cooking stress. Maybe start with 4 and work up to 6. Sometimes when I see an ingredient list of 25 items and instructions that are a mile long, I just avoid it. Keep it simple till you feel like you can handle something more complicated.

Not sure what your family likes to eat but plan each week with repeat meals. Like every Monday have cheeseburgers. My hub will cook up maybe 8 cheeseburgers, let them cool and freeze individually. When we want them we defrost, rewarm and eat. You could cook up like 16 cheeseburgers ahead of time and pull out 4 for each Monday's dinner. Plan soup or a side salad with it. So now all your Mondays for the month are set. Now let's say every Friday is pizza night. My grocery store has a pizza, calzone area in the store where you can buy cooked stuff. Plus, they have premade uncooked pizza's. I buy and freeze them. When I want one I doctor it up (even though it already has toppings on it) with extra stuff like mushrooms, anchovies, sausage and a little more cheese. You could buy 4 and place in the freezer, one for each Friday. Have that with a salad. You could make up 4 meatloaves. One for each week. Make them pretty large. Eat one on Tuesday and use the leftover meatloaf chopped up and add to meat sauce and make spaghetti for Wednesday nights. Serve meatloaf with a hot vegetable and mashed taters. I make instant! So now you have Thursday, Saturday and Sunday to plan for. If you live near a Costco, buy 4 of their oven roasters already cooked. When you get them home carve the chickens and freeze into 4 packages. Layer with parchment paper so meat is easy to pull out of bag later on. This chicken can be made into different meals. Rewarm in chicken gravy, eat cold on a sandwich, shred and mix with barbeque sauce warm up and have it on a bun. Buy 4 packages of ground beef. Cook it all up with chopped onions. Divide into 4 ziplock bags. You now have the beginnings of Poor man stroganoff, chili, stuffed peppers, taco pie. Buy two more large packages of ground beef and make meatballs (find a recipe). Cook all the meatballs on a rack in a pan to catch drippings in oven. Once cooled you can divide them into ziplock bags and freeze. You can use the meatballs for spaghetti, over egg noodles with a gravy, with alfredo sauce (Ragu jarred), with pineapples, peppers and rice.

You can make a lot of this stuff in one day, freeze and pull out for your dinner each night.

You just need to organize:
Get your recipes together
Make a list of all ingredients needed
Shop for ingredients, freezer ziplock bags
Put shelf stable ingredients for each recipe in individual bags (sort them out)
Plan how you will cook or assemble ingredients
Try to use same pan to cook like things to limit accumulating a lot of dishes/pans to wash

Think assembly line, for instance, cook all hamburger, drain off fat, have ziplocks labeled and ready to fill on a table or counter. Fill bags using a cup measure to put in equal amounts into bags, close them up and put aside or freeze. Start next cooking session. Make meatballs, put on rack on pan then bake, Make up your ziplock bags with date and description. Fill bags once meatballs are cooled. Make up meatloaves, bake, cool, freeze. Carve chickens, put each chicken in an individual ziplock bag.



Laura33

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #33 on: November 09, 2018, 08:06:24 AM »
I will say, I love the explosion of the foodie culture (as my waistline will attest), and the emphasis on fresh/local/homemade/etc.  But it has done a huge disservice to home cooks, because the bar is just so much higher than when I was a kid.  You know how I learned to do "homemade pizza" back in the '80s?  We took a pack of English muffins, sliced them, spread jarred tomato sauce on each half, and cut some slices of cheese to put on top, then put the whole thing in the toaster oven.  And then there was our family favorite Johnny Mazetti casserole:  cooked ground beef, cooked noodles, a can of tomato soup, and cheese.  And this was from parents who gardened and baked bread and refused to buy junk food and had generally focused on fresh/organic/homemade since the late '60s.  I was jealous of my other friends, who got to eat mac and cheese made with spaghetti and Velveeta!

Which is why my primary advice is still to lower your standards.  For almost all of human history, people did not eat homemade pizza with freshly-made dough and homemade toppings on a Tuesday night -- and those who did were not working multiple full-time jobs and trying to get dinner served before the kids' heads started spinning 360 and Damien came to visit the dinner table.  You are a success if you get edible food on the table, period -- and if you can manage it before the kids melt down, well then, you are SuperParent.  So if you feel like roasting a chicken is something you can do, go for it!  But if that seems intimidating, well, there isn't a damn thing wrong with buying a pre-cooked one from the supermarket and adding a bag of steamed veggies and a loaf of supermarket bread.

GreenSheep

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #34 on: November 09, 2018, 09:19:59 PM »
I firmly believe that there's no such thing as an inherently good or bad cook. Maybe not everyone will love cooking, but everyone can at least become good enough at it to make things that they and others enjoy.

Do you have a friend who is at least a reasonably decent cook and at least somewhat enjoys doing it? I was fortunate enough to learn from my mom, who is an excellent cook, but I think the next best thing would be fooling around in the kitchen with a friend who knows what she/he is doing.

Your friend can hold your hand through learning the basics, and since they're right there in front of you, you can ask questions and get feedback at your own pace rather than trying to figure out what exactly they're doing in a video or what some part of a recipe means. You can make a fun afternoon of it and then take home half of whatever you make. Or just eat it together after you clean up the kitchen. Maybe offer to pay for the ingredients at least the first couple of times, in exchange for the "lessons."

People often tell me they like the food I make, and they wish they could cook better, but no one has ever asked me to try to show them how! I think it would be a blast!

GreenSheep

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #35 on: November 09, 2018, 09:28:44 PM »
Oh, one more thing. Until you have a lot of experience, follow the recipe to the letter -- or ask someone more experienced if they think it would be okay to make whatever change you have in mind. Don't leave out something because you don't have it or it's too expensive or whatever. Don't make substitutions. Sometimes an ingredient that doesn't seem important is absolutely essential to the taste, texture, cooking time, etc. I see comments on food blogs all the time in which people say they didn't like a recipe, but they also say they switched out three things and omitted another. Well, no wonder.

Also, make sure your spices are fresh. If the smell isn't strong, toss it and get a new jar.

moof

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #36 on: November 09, 2018, 09:38:26 PM »
Get “How to Cook Everything Fast”.  Good book.

Pick a couple recipes and work on them over and over till you get them right, don’t give up the first time it comes out poorly.

APowers

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #37 on: November 09, 2018, 11:05:18 PM »
Don't be afraid of pre-made ingredients/elements. It can be a lot more manageable to do Pizza and Movie Friday with a frozen pizza that everyone gets to add their favorite topping to before you jump into making your own pizza dough. And lots of people never get to that step! You're looking to change a whole host of habits, so every move toward 'I'm a person who makes most of their food at home' counts, even if its by baking a frozen pizza with extra mushrooms and cheese, or heating up pre-made soup, or making open-face grilled cheese.


This was going to be my point as well.  You don't need to jump straight from the restaurant to cooking your own meals from scratch.  Walk backward through the "supply chain" for lack of a better term. 


At first, just replace the restaurant with the supermarket.  Whatever your go-to meals are now, just buy those foods prepared from the grocery.  Already you've saved money, likely sales taxes, and you've created a good habit.  Kids can also handle this degree of preparation and eventually do it only semi-supervised.  Usually it's just unpack, heat, cut, serve.  After this, the next step is to customize some of those items.  After you get into these habits and schedule, you can then start buying more raw ingredients.  This will reduce costs, add flexibility, add health benefits, but increase time. 

Even if you all you ever accomplish is replacing restaurant food with prepared grocery food, you've taken a notable step forward.

This.

One step at a time. You don't need to jump from "I've never eaten at home" to "The SNAP challenge isn't even hard" all at once. Build a good "eat at home" routine, and *then* work on figuring out the skills to economize from there. Just switching from ordering out to "buying pre-prepared meals from Costco" will be a huge budget improvement.

Roadrunner53

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Re: Getting Started Cooking
« Reply #38 on: November 10, 2018, 05:33:17 AM »
Last night I made a calzone and it was delicious. Really a no brainer!

Started with one bag of store bought pizza dough. Put it in a olive oil rubbed tall bowl put a warm damp towel over the top then put it in a slightly warmed oven that was heated for two minutes then turned off.

After about 2 hours the dough more than doubled in size. I added some flour and took a rolling pin and rolled it out to almost a pizza size. On one side I spread out the pizza sauce, maybe a cup. Then added canned mushrooms, pepperoni, chopped broccoli, Ricotta, mozzarella, crushed pepper and Italian spices. Folded over the dough and pinched the edges together. Brushed the top lightly with melted butter and then put 4 slices in the top to vent.

Cooked it for about 20 minutes at 400F (till it was lightly browned). It puffed up and looked great! I took the rest of the pizza sauce and put in some Italian spices then warmed it up in individual bowls. We cut the calzone into serving pieces, dipped them in the sauce and devoured it. OMG! SOOO GOOOOD and you can add anything to stuff it with! Sausage and peppers, different cheeses!

Oh, and I sprinkled a generous amount of cornmeal on the pan to prevent the dough from sticking to the pan bottom.

The hardest part was rolling out the dough but by adding a little flour here and there it rolled out just fine!